At the turn of the twentieth century girls have been found murdered with their eyes gouged out. Matthias Morteval (Boris Karloff) and Dr. Emerick Horvath (Quintin Bulnes) have seen this before. They discuss similar murders that happened in Vienna and Budapest. They dance around the reason but they both know what is really going on. They also know that Matthias’ brother Hugo was responsible in the past. Now there is another and they must find who is responsible and stop it.
The police are investigating the murdered girls. They have some evidence they can’t explain. A letter in a strange language. They call in Professor Frank (Arturo Fernandez). He tells them the writing is Urdish and that it is a Romani dialect. The Urdish are gypsies. They are violent and are prone to vendettas.
Charles Beasler (Andres Garcia) is an Assistant Inspector for the police and is working on the case. His fiancé is Lucy Durant (Julissa). Lucy has been summoned to Morteval Mansion. The letter she received says Matthias wants to meet his heirs in person. Lucy is related to the Mortevals through Hugo. Also on hand are Cordelia Morteval Rash (Beatriz Baz), Ivor Morteval (Jose Angel Espinosa Ferrusquilla) and Morgenstern Morteval (Manuel Alvarado). Everyone meets Matthias, who promptly insults everyone and kicks Charles out. Charles doesn’t go far. After being returned to town he rents a horse and rides back to the estate. He is captured and drugged.
Soon after everyone is settled in Ivor explains the family curse. Matthias had four brothers, one of them being Hugo. It seems that, in the family tradition, one of the sons was chosen to be a toymaker. Hugo was chosen. He was a toymaker of unusual toys. They were expensive intricate toys that were popular with Maharajas and Kings. Sometimes they were lethal. It also seems that whoever was chosen to be the toymaker developed a brain disease and went mad. Hugo’s madness manifested in the belief that everyone was staring at him constantly. After staring at his own reflection for hours, in his madness he pulled out his own eyes.
That night Matthias dies. Everyone is required to stay and attend the funeral. After a period of mourning there will be the reading of the will. Not long after the funeral service Hugo’s toys begin to appear to come alive and start killing the heirs.
“House of Evil” AKA “Dance Of Death” AKA “Serenata macabre” was released in 1968 and was directed by Jack Hill (US scenes) and Juan Ibanez (Mexican scenes). The film is supposed to be loosely based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. It is one of four Mexican films that Boris Karloff did before he died. The same production crew was used for all four films. The other films are “The Fear Chamber” 1968, “Isle of the Snake People” 1971 and “The Incredible Invasion” 1971. Boris Karloff’s scenes were filmed in Santa Monica, California. The film was made in 1968 but did not receive a theatrical released until 1978.
The print I have is rather dark. And the music score is strange. It’s like someone took a bunch of canned music from other films and just stuck it in different places without figuring out if it belonged or not. It doesn’t seem to fit with what’s happening on screen. The movie itself seemed disjointed. There are scenes that are in there for mystery’s sake but never followed through. Also there were clues that really had nothing to do with the story. It was like there were so many plot points that there wasn’t enough time to flesh them out to the point where they made enough sense to add anything to the movie.
The whole concept of the film is good but the undertaking fell a little short. The movie was passable but a little boring at times. The only bright spot was Karloff who did a great job of being a crazy old man.